What is a Metaphor ?
A Metaphor is an “expression of an understanding of one concept in terms of
another concept, where there is some similarity or correlation between the two”
according to the LinguaLinks Library. Metaphors are used by anyone trying to convey an
idea in an indirect manner. We use them daily without realizing it. Metaphors put a twist
in daily language in that they are a unique way of describing a concept. There are
common metaphors that we use everyday and not so common ones which are used
specifically in some kind of field for example engineering. Since engineers usually work
as a team to accomplish a goal, they use metaphors to communicate with each other
There are thousands of metaphors that are used almost unconsciously every day.
They are viewed as ways to encode different points of views in regular conversations. An
example of a common metaphor is “jumping for joy.” In order to understand this
metaphor, we have to look for the concept first. The concept is Joy or Happiness and the
action of jumping is used to convey the significance of joy. For example when a High
School student receives his/her acceptance letter from a university they applied to, they
get overwhelmed with happiness, so they “jump for joy.”
Another common metaphor is “you are the light in my life.” Here the concept is
life and the quality of life is signified by the word “light.” We abstractly view light as a
positive occurrence, so in this metaphor, someone or something is a positive influence in
the person’s life. This metaphor is used frequently between two people in a relationship.
Among the most common metaphors are ones that refer to our senses such as touch, taste, sight etc (Sensory Metaphors). For example in the metaphor previously used, light can be
referred to as a sight.
A common metaphor that is used occasionally, but one that is not as clear as the
subsequent ones is, “I was left saddled with the blame.” This metaphor claims that
responsibilities are Burdens, so if you are not responsible for your actions, then you are
the one to blame and your responsibility is no longer a burden. One can put this metaphor
in contrast to a student in college. Students are responsible for doing homework and
investing time studying in order to complete their college education. Their education is a
burden because a degree is a load carried with someone that helps in discovering a dream
job for instance.
In Engineering, metaphors facilitate the communication process. “Out of phase” is
an informal phrase that can be used in various contexts. The origin of this phrase comes
from the misalignment of the parts of one mechanical or electrical cycle with another
(The Engineer). For things to work simultaneously, they have to be in phase. When they
are out of phase, the parts tend to not be conforming to each other. Since many engineers
work as a team, each part of the team must be in phase to complete a specific project. A
lead engineer may say “let’s not get out of phase with our objectives” to the other
engineers. He is trying to convey to the engineers the importance of working together in
order to reach a goal. The engineers have to conform collectively within the team to have
a chance of being successful and fulfill their purpose. This metaphor is used widely in the
engineering field and is extremely effective because it describes the concept of
A sparingly used metaphor in the engineering field is “equilibrium.” Equilibrium
is defined to be the steady state in a certain condition. It can be referred to as
psychological poise (The Engineer). The source of this metaphor originated in the world
of fluid mechanics. In fluid mechanics, something is said to have equilibrium when all...
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